Skip to article content
Skip to sidebar navigation
Accessibility Statement
The Rune Site main page

Four Theories on Rune Creation

As far as how the runes were created and how they traveled from one place to the next is unclear to us. They may have been an adaptation of previous alphabets or could have been the result of original work. To get a better understanding of where the runes may have come from we will look at the four major historical history theories on the runes. After each theory we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each to get a better idea of why the theory may or may not be the correct one.

The four theories that we will cover are as follows:

  1. The Roman (or Latin) Theory
  2. The Indigenous Theory
  3. The Greek Theory
  4. The North-Italic (or Etruscan) Theory

The Roman Theory

This theory was first presented in 1874 by L.F.A. Wimmer and states that the runes are a result of the adaptation of the Roman (or Latin) alphabet. It is assumed that the ancient Germanic people, who came into contact with Roman culture through the invasion of the Teutones and Cimbri, were familiarized with the Roman written alphabet as early as the 2nd century B.C.E. They then adapted the Roman alphabet into the runes and put it to use, spreading it by the means of trading routes into Scandinavian countries and then eastward from there.

The one thing that we need to watch in this theory is the fact that there is little evidence of the runes near Roman lands at such a time. However, the spread of the runes into Scandinavian countries and from there eastward may mean that the adaptation of the Roman alphabet wasn’t complete until the runes had begun to spread northward.

The Indigenous Theory

First put forward in 1896 by R.M. Meyer and popularized by National Socialist Germany, this theory states that the runes were an original “alphabet.” Not only were they said to be original but they were also said to have been the groundwork on which the Greek and Phoenician alphabets were created.

This theory no longer holds much value to it due to the fact that the earliest Phoenician writings can be dated back to around the 13th or 12th century B.C.E., while the earliest runic inscription dates back to the 1st century C.E.

The Greek Theory

This theory was first stated in 1899 by Sophus Bugge and talks about how the ancient Germanic people adapted the Greek alphabet to create the runes. The theory goes that the Goths had come into contact with a cursive form of the Greek alphabet. The Goths then adapted the cursive form of that alphabet for their own use allowing the new alphabet to spread with them as they traveled.

There are problems with this theory, which have led it to be abandoned by many people. Again we see a fault in the times for this theory. The earliest the Goths would have been able to adapt such an alphabet is around 200 C.E. and the earliest runic inscription would have been earlier than that.

The North-Italic Theory

This theory by C.J.S. Marstrander in 1928 was strengthened in 1937 by Wolfgang Krause. The theory goes that the Germanic people living in the Alps came into contact with the North-Italic (or Etruscan) alphabet and adapted it. Then the Cimbri come into contact with the “new” alphabet and pass it on to the Suevi who carry the runes up the Rhine river to the North Sea, Jutland and beyond.

The only real “problem” with this scenario is that the encounter would have taken place two to three hundred before any runic inscriptions that are already dated. But this doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have happened. Items made of wood may have been carved with the runes and may have long since decayed.

Runic Half-Months

I forget where and when I read about the concept of runic half-months and I really wish I could remember so that I may give some credit to the author here. However, I feel that this idea is too great to leave off the site simply because I can’t remember where I read it.

How does it work? The idea is simple: There are 12 months in a year and 24 runes of the elder futhark. Which means that each month contains two runes, or each rune has a half-month where it represents the time, season and events of that month. A similar action can be held true for the hours in a day, which will be covered in another section (24 runes, 24 hours in a day).

Runic Half-Months
Runic half-month start date* Rune
January 13 Perdhro
January 28 Elhaz
February 12 Sowulo
February 27 Teiwaz
March 14 Berkana
March 30 Ehwaz
April 14 Mannaz
April 29 Laguz
May 14 Inguz
May 29 Othala
June 14 Dagaz
June 29 Fehu
July 14 Uruz
July 29 Thurisaz
August 13 Ansuz
August 29 Raidho
September 13 Kenaz
September 28 Gebo
October 13 Wunjo
October 28 Hagalaz
November 13 Naudhiz
November 28 Isa
December 13 Jera
December 28 Eihwaz

For those of you who are new to the runes and wish to learn more – well use this table to your advantage. Read and learn as much as you can about the rune that relates to the half-month you are currently in. Learn the different names and symbols for that rune, the color and sound associated with it and even try to commit the rune meaning for casting to memory. It sounds tough, but trust me it’s a great exercise.